High wires and humour: Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza is one of its most joyful productions to hit Singapore’s shores

Cirque du Soleil's Kooza is one of the most joyful productions by the Canadian circus to hit Singapore's shores

REVIEW / CIRCUS

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL - KOOZA

Under the Big Top, Bayfront Avenue (beside Marina Bay Sands)

Wednesday

Cirque du Soleil's Kooza launches with back-to-basic acrobatics and accessible comedy courtesy of the clowns. Then the drama is amped up steadily to provide plenty of edge-of-the-seat entertainment in one of the most joyful Cirque productions to have hit Singapore's shores.

The Canadian circus is no stranger to the country, having staged everything from Saltimbanco to Quidam here in the last two decades. But, unlike the melancholic Alegria or the dark and dramatic Quidam, there was an exuberance about Kooza that was uplifting.

The new show unfurls like a story, as the Trickster, a jester-like figure in striped suits and flaunting a twinkle in his eye, guides the audience. Like a snake charmer armed with a sparkly baton instead of a flute, he draws the main character called the Innocent - and the crowd - into a magical world with high-wire acts, contortionists and clowns. One could feel him staring into one's soul as he beckons the audience with a dramatic wrist flick.

This narrative was certainly an improvement on the Darwin-inspired Totem, which rolled into town in 2015 - the latter was aesthetically pleasing, but plagued by incoherence.

The rich red-and-gold palette of the stage and the Bollywood- flavoured soundtrack provided by the live band added to the drama of the production.

Kooza forgoes special effects in favour of focusing on the performers.
Kooza forgoes special effects in favour of focusing on the performers. PHOTO: 2012 CIRQUE DU SOLEIL

  • BOOK IT / CIRQUE DU SOLEIL - KOOZA

  • WHERE: Bayfront Avenue, beside Marina Bay Sands

    WHEN: Till Aug 20, Tuesdays to Sundays, various times

    ADMISSION: $88 to $318 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

    INFO: www.cirquedusoleil.com/kooza

There was plenty for the audience to ooh and aah about - an act called Contortion, in which three performers created stunning sculptures with their bodies; a male-female duo, with their bodies intertwined, performed a quick samba aboard a unicycle.

The highlights were the death-defying acts - the twin high wires and the imposing Wheel Of Death.

In the twin high wires, four tightrope walkers fearlessly dance, skip and skitter across wires slung high above the ground as various effects (chairs and bicycles) appear from the ceiling. To make the feat even more impressive, the foursome made their way across the wires using the props, all while managing to make it look effortless.

A safety net notwithstanding, gasps rose from the crowd as the difficulty of each trick increased.

For the Wheel Of Death, two performers with devilish horns atop their heads climbed onto the 725kg structure and performed tricks inside and outside two wheels as they spun faster and faster.

Fittingly for their characters, there was plenty of showboating, even after one of them got his foot stuck while skipping rope on the outside of the wheel's steel cage and fumbled.

Tempering the heart-stopping thrills were light-hearted moments, courtesy of a merry bunch of clowns with their slapstick humour and physical comedy, as they raced around the stage spilling popcorn on unsuspecting guests and masterfully involving audience members in skits.

The Innocent's little red clown nose was a lovely touch to harken back to the traditional clown. As he grows in confidence, the audience goes on the journey with him, proving the necessity of a great narrative to complement a brilliant circus show.

Kooza has done well to forgo special effects, a heavy-handed plot and overly dramatic set designs, in favour of focusing on the performer and the theatre and high art of a Cirque production.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2017, with the headline 'High wires and humour'. Print Edition | Subscribe